France enters the tournament as one of the more vaunted teams, but that’s not saying much. The US is a heavy favorite, and France sits at 25/1 odds to win it according to Bookmaker. Bovada.lv, meanwhile, sets the spread at -26 and the total at 169.
Let’s analyze the match ups involved and attempt to gain perspective on what the French team brings to the table:
C- Ronny Turiaf vs. Kevin Love / Tyson Chandler / Anthony Davis
Let’s see here: We’ve got a journeyman back up center squaring off against the league’s leading rebounder and the Defensive Player of the Year. I like Turiaf as much as the next guy, but you can’t pit an NBA backup against All-Star talent and expect good results.
PF- Boris Diaw vs. LeBron James (Playing Out of Position) / Carmelo Anthony (OOP)
Three or four years ago, this matchup might be half way plausible. OK, so it wouldn’t, but it’s even worse now that Diaw is out of shape and overweight, and he appeared unmotivated until he was finally traded from Charlotte to the San Antonio Spurs at the trade deadline.
Maybe that motivation will carry over to the Olympics, but he’s squaring off against arguably the best player in the league playing out of position in International ball. LeBron’s back up, ‘Melo, is a good scorer in International ball as well, as he showed in 2008 on the “Redeem Team,” so the overweight Diaw is going to have his hands full, to say the least.
SF- Mickael Gelabale vs. Kevin Durant / Andre Iguodala
Here, again, we have a D-leaguer from France squaring off against Durant, who has led the league in scoring the last three seasons. Iguodala is a top notch defender, though he won’t have much to worry about with Gelabale anyway, save maybe keeping him off the offensive glass (Gelabale is known to have a great vertical leap). I think I’ll go with the scoring champ here against a guy who can’t even stay on an NBA roster.
SG- Nicolas Batum vs. Kobe Bryant / James Harden
Now we have arguably the greatest player ever in Kobe Bryant squaring off against an excellent defender in Nicolas Batum. Batum also shot 39% from behind the arc last year, and the International line is only 20’9″, which will only aid Batum further. Guess what, though? James Harden is equally proficient as a 39% three point shooter in his own right. While The Black Mamba will get the majority of the minutes, it won’t matter even if Batum can keep him in check with so many other weapons at every position.
PG- Tony Parker vs. Chris Paul / Russell Westbrook / Deron Williams
Parker is undoubtedly the best player on the French team, and he also had the hottest wife of all NBA players, though Lamar Odom is deceived into believing Khloe Kardashian compares in the wildest of worlds.
All that aside, I don’t see Parker being able to keep it up over the course of the game against three of the top point guards in the NBA, notwithstanding the fact that Parker may be close to that elite class himself. It’s just too much to ask of Parker for him to be able to keep three point guards in check, all of whom are equally as good as he is to begin with.
It’s important to remember that France will likely stick to playing all five starters heavy minutes, save maybe Ronny Turiaf, who is backed up by the Washington Wizards’ Kevin Serpahin. Parker and Batum may in fact play the entire game, barring a true blowout in which France feels obligated to rest their backcourt for the upcoming games in pool play which they stand more a more reasonable shot of winning.
As you see, the US has an advantage at every single position, and Vegas Oddsmakers have realized this in setting the 26 point spread in the US’ favor. While the US team will come out motivated, I think Vegas is underestimating the skills of the Frenchmen.
I’m hardly predicting a close game, but I do like France to cover the spread and expect to see a 19-22 point victory for the Americans. As for the total, there are too many factors involved in blowout games, and too many question marks regarding how Coach K will manage the minutes once the game is out of control and the US firmly takes hold of the lead.